Monday, April 16, 2012

Review of MARLEY (2012)

- [PG -13] for drug content, thematic elements and some violent images.
- Directed by Kevin MacDonald
- Running Time: 2hrs. 24min.

I never really heard anything by Bob Marley until I was well out of High School, and when I did I found it pleasant. But it wasn't until I heard the album EXODUS in it's entirety that I started to truly admire him. I have all of his major studio albums, so I consider myself a fan. I didn't know anything about his personal life, so I was curious to see how much this documentary would cover.

At nearly two and a half hours, Filmmaker Kevin MacDonald (TOUCHING THE VOID and THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) had seemingly limitless access to archive footage in order to assemble a very extensive look at the famous Reggae musician. This epic Doc covers everything a hardcore fan could hope for: His birth, his mysterious white father, his introduction to music, his first experience with fame and how he handles it, the many ladies of his life, how his music changed from ska to reggae, his energetic stage shows, the politics of his music, and ultimately his sickness and death. And much more.

MacDonald has structured the film fairly straightforward, mixing interviews with family and band members with rare archive footage. I was worried that I would feel the film's long running length, but for the most part it kept my interest. This is a true celebration of the man and the legend, as his music is played throughout the film's entirety, whether it's concert footage (which is awesome), sweeping photography of Jamaica, or just interviews, Marley's music dominates.

I'm happy that we get to see all sides of Marley. He comes across as a genuinely likable dude, but had a reputation as a ladies man, having several lovers (a text came across during the film stating that he had 11 kids from 9 different relationships, I think). I do think his music gets pushed to the background during the second half, as it focused a lot on the political happenings in Jamaica. That's fine, but I would have preferred to see more insight on the writing and recording of his most famous and important album, EXODUS. It's mentioned once ("EXODUS was a huge hit"). That definitely could've been expanded upon. Another couple of minutes wouldn't have hurt. I think that album is too important to just gloss over.

Besides that, as whole, the Documentary is engaging enough to entertain music lovers. Bob Marley fanatics are going to treat this film like the Holy Bible. I'm not quite there, but it's definitely worth two and half hours of your time.

*** (out of ****)

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